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Esophagitis - Topic Overview

What is esophagitis?

Esophagitis is irritation or inflammation of the esophagus camera.gif. The esophagus is the tube that carries food from your throat to your stomach. Esophagitis camera.gif can be painful and can make it hard to swallow.

What causes esophagitis?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is the most common cause of esophagitis. When you have GERD, stomach acid and juices flow backward into your esophagus. This can irritate the esophagus.

Other causes include:

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms of esophagitis include:

Sometimes it also causes:

  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Fever.
  • Belly pain.

How is esophagitis diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and past health. He or she may do tests such as:

  • An endoscopy. During this test, the doctor puts a thin, flexible tube down your throat to look at your esophagus. This test also lets the doctor get a sample of the cells to test for infection. Sometimes a small piece of tissue is removed for a biopsy. A biopsy is a test that checks for inflammation or cancer cells.
  • A barium swallow. This is an X-ray of the throat and esophagus. Before the X-ray, you will drink a chalky liquid called barium. Barium coats the inside of your esophagus so that it shows up better on an X-ray.

How is it treated?

The treatment you need depends on what is causing the esophagitis. If you have esophagitis caused by acid reflux or GERD, your doctor will likely recommend that you change your diet, lose weight if needed, and make other lifestyle changes. Here are some things to try:

  • Change your eating habits.
    • It’s best to eat several small meals instead of two or three large meals.
    • After you eat, wait 2 to 3 hours before you lie down. Late-night snacks aren't a good idea.
    • Chocolate, mint, and alcohol can make GERD worse. They relax the valve between the esophagus and the stomach.
    • Spicy foods, foods that have a lot of acid (like tomatoes and oranges), and coffee can make GERD symptoms worse in some people. If your symptoms are worse after you eat a certain food, you may want to stop eating that food to see if your symptoms get better.
  • Do not smoke or use smokeless tobacco.
  • If you have GERD symptoms at night, raise the head of your bed 6 in. (15 cm) to 8 in. (20 cm) by putting the frame on blocks or placing a foam wedge under the head of your mattress. (Adding extra pillows does not work.)
  • Do not wear tight clothing around your middle.
  • Lose weight if you need to. Losing just 5 to 10 pounds can help.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 01, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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